“I HEAR AND I FORGET,
I SEE AND I REMEMBER,
I DO AND I UNDERSTAND.”
Children are natural learners. They learn from the environment. Children are also active learners. They learn by doing. In other words, they learn by using all of their senses. They move from concrete, hands on tasks, to abstract thoughts and from simple to more complex activities. Children’s development is continuous, gradual and predictable. Even though all children proceed through the same sequence of development, they do so in their own way and in their own time. It is for this reason that a child’s learning cannot be rushed through adult intervention. They must be given many developmentally appropriate experiences and be exposed to a language-rich and stimulating environment. We believe in the whole language approach to language development. Whereas phonics and letter recognition are important, we expose children to real everyday forms of language from the labeling of objects, to reading stories, and writing down the child’s words. This kind of language is meaningful to the child and helps to ensure learning is as personal as possible.
The curriculum we use at Children’s Center is based on the HIGH/SCOPE philosophy. This is a series of multi-sensory, active learning environments and experiences, which stimulate children
to interact at their existing level of growth and development while challenging them to expand. We accept children as they are, both developmentally and culturally, viewing them as participants and contributing members who help create our program rather than molding them and expecting them to fit into our program. The teacher’s role is that of a facilitator who “sets the table” for each child’s learning. They are not so much interested in right answers to problems but more in the process the child took to arrive at an answer. The primary goals of the teachers are to support child development, to provide the learning environment, and to promote active learning on the part of the child. Rather than teaching concepts with worksheets, drills, or rote learning, concepts are learning indirectly through self-initiated activities directed by each child and small/large group activities that are teacher-directed but at the same time, child-centered.
We believe a predictable, consistent daily routine helps a child to feel more comfortable. It helps them to develop a sense of time and also responsibility and independence as the child begins to learn “what comes next”. The daily routine is flexible enough to allow for spontaneous learning opportunities, however fieldtrips, special activities, and classroom events are not surprises.
The Power of Our Preschool Program
Through research in early childhood development, we know that young children have very different learning needs than older children and adults. We know that our younger children benefit most from learning activities that support decision making and are planned around the interests and abilities of the children. Our teaching staff are responsible for planning activities that support the developmental needs of the children in their classroom. Weekly lesson plans include activities that are geared towards meeting the varied intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs of the children within the class and also provide the needed balance between teacher-planned and child-directed learning.
We know that the importance of play cannot be overemphasized. Because of this, our daily routines and lesson plans include a balance of teacher-planned activities along with adequate time for play. When a classroom is appropriately designed and equipped, children are able to learn many of the strategies for later learning and life. Learning A,B,C’s and 1,2,3’s is crucial to learning to read and multiply math facts just as learning to problem-solve, communicate, create and discover leads to being a productive citizen and community leader.
In a well laid out classroom, children learn concepts through play as well as through teacher-directed activities. By building a tower in the block area, children learn about the concepts of shape, size, and location – all of which are pre-math skills. When children play with the pegboard, they learn left to right progression – a very important reading skill, along with learning about one to one correspondence – a crucial math skill. It is the acquisition of these skills that allows children to experience success as they proceed through elementary school and beyond. It is our job, as early childhood educators, to facilitate learning through play by helping children internalize concepts rather than memorize facts.
To promote an optimal learning environment, our young students are encouraged to make choices, to plan, to explore, to ask and answer questions, to solve problems, and to interact with other students and adults. In their environment, children naturally engage in “key experiences” – activities that foster developmentally significant skills and abilities. High/Scope has identified 58 key developmental indicators in a child’s development for the preschool years and has grouped these key experiences into ten categories: creative representation, language and literacy, initiative and social relations, movement, music, classification, seriating, number, space and time. For infants and toddlers, High/Scope has identified 42 key developmental indicators and has grouped them into ten categories: sense of self, social relations, creative representation, music, communication and language, exploring objects, early quantity and number, space and time.
Each preschool classroom is divided into learning centers that are carefully designed to stimulate thinking and interaction. Examples of learning centers include block area, house area, art area, language and writing area, math and science area, puzzles, manipulative area, etc. However, the development of a certain skill is not isolated to that area. For example, children in the math and science area may participate in a specific teacher-directed activity designed to focus on counting objects and sorting by size. This experience is then taken with the child when, during free play, three children work together creating a castle whose strength depends on correct use of size and quantity to create their desired project. Learning spans all areas and is interrelated.
Our infant and toddler-learning environment is one where safety and gentle guidance is of utmost importance. Because we know that an infant and toddler’s development is so closely related to their level of comfort and sense of belonging, it is our job to nurture and care for each child on an individual basis. Each child arrives with varied needs and so individualized schedules and learning activities are supported.
At Children’s Center, we know, by studying the latest research on brain development, that our responsibility to our youngest students is enormous. Through this research we know that an infant’s brain is actually ten times more active than that of an adult due to the “wiring” or connections being formed every day. We also know that for many skills the “windows of opportunity” for acquiring is only open for so long and if children are not exposed to appropriate stimuli during this time of development, negative and long- term effects may occur. We take our responsibility with our precious little ones very seriously.
In our infant and toddler rooms, we see our teachers’ primary responsibility as providing a caring environment that creates a sense of security and connection for each child. Primary caregivers are assigned to each child in order to maximize relationship- building and to ensure individual needs are met. Research tells us that these early years of development are crucial to later growth and therefore careful planning is a must.